Water Treatment Plant No. 4 Is a Colossal Waste of Money

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 24, 2009

Dear Editor,
    While Katherine Gregor’s article [“Dumping the Water Pump,” News, Feb. 20] on Austin’s proposed $500 million Water Treatment Plant No. 4 covered lots of ground, it missed a few critical points. The accompanying chart incorrectly labeled as “SOS Projection” is actually the city’s own projected increase in “peak day” water demands while starting from last summer’s actual peak day use of 219 million gallons per day. Simply looking at the chart reveals that summer peak-day demands are flat or declining as citizens and businesses wake up to the water, energy, and money to be saved by simply paying attention.
    We know there’s plenty more to be saved, at a tiny fraction of the cost of building and operating a new treatment plant. Our per capita water use is 25%-30% higher than the very modest state-recommended goal for municipal water use. Yet our “green” council refuses to even adopt this minimum recommendation. Fifteen percent of our water is lost to leaks, breaks, faulty meters, and water theft. Where’s the plan to stop this waste? City efforts to substitute nonpotable reuse water for peak summer irrigation and commercial cooling demands are stuck in first gear.
    Even if we needed extra treatment capacity, the city’s own consultants proposed a replacement for the Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant Downtown for one-fourth the cost of WTP 4 while providing almost twice the treatment capacity. The plan would still free up 80% of the Green site for much-needed Downtown condos.
    Anyway you slice it, WTP 4 is a colossal waste of money (aka boondoggle) that cannot be squared with the city’s proclaimed interest in sustainability.
Bill Bunch
Save Our Springs Alliance
   [Editor's note: The "SOS Projection" line in question comes directly from a chart ("Peak Day Projections") developed and provided to the media by SOS; it is posted on the SOS Alliance website. As stated in the article, SOS used the city's same peak-day use assumptions but created a different projection by starting from 219 MGD.]
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